One national championship. Seventeen NCAA tournament appearances. Four-time conference tournament champions. Eight-time regular season conference champions.
You’d have to double-check to make sure you’re not reading Joe Morrone’s stats. These are the UConn career highlights of Ray Reid, the current head coach of the men’s soccer team. Many remember Morrone as the UConn coaching legend if for no other reason than the stadium bears his name. But a closer look reveals that Reid was just as good as Morrone during his time at UConn.
Maybe it's time for the university to let him go.
The story of Reid and Morrone parallel each other. Both coaches stepped in and turned a team that faded from an elite level back into a national powerhouse. Both did legendary things for UConn and Connecticut soccer in general, though Morrone was very ahead of his time in terms of international recruiting and travel.
But at the end of his tenure, Morrone and the university mutually agreed it was time for him to step down. Reid is now at that point in his career.
Though Morrone was more or less fired in a polite way, there is no denying that he was an all-time great: a national championship in 1981, NCAA semifinal appearances in 1982 and 1983, a 358-178-53 record in his UConn tenure. He not only put UConn back on the national soccer map, but throughout his 28 years, he worked with elementary, middle and high schools around the state to build up youth soccer leagues so he would be able to develop local high-caliber players.
But in 1996, the university had to make a decision. Once 1992 rolled around, Morrone’s team suffered their first losing record, 7-10-2, since 1971, where they went 4-11. The following years proved to be just as disappointing; 1989 was the last time in Morrone’s tenure his team won a conference tournament game, and they missed the NCAA tournament seven years in a row. In need of a change, the university and Morrone mutually agreed it was time to move on.
And in came Ray Reid. Before he came to Storrs, he led Southern to three NCAA Division II championships and, upon arrival, immediately bolstered UConn into an elite team again, winning a national championship in 2000 after just four years at the helm. He took the Huskies to the NCAA tournament 16 years in a row.
The last few years of UConn men’s soccer have not exactly been at an elite level. They missed the NCAA tournament in 2014 for the first times since 1997. They earned a questionable bid in 2015 after a tie in the conference finals and a 10-6-6 record. They missed the tournament again in 2016 after a horrible finish to the season negated a fabulous start, going 3-3-1 in The American and losing in the first round of the conference tournament.
This season, while still young, has arguably been one of the most disappointing in the last decade. They lost to Iona to open the season and haven’t scored more than two goals in any game. They couldn’t even score multiple goals against a mediocre Hofstra team and, for a team that touts its defense as its strength, blew a 2-0 halftime lead to North Florida.
It’s not for a lack of talent -- after all, UConn was ranked No. 24 to start the year with a strong recruiting class and a lot of returners. When you have a team that can’t hold a 2-0 lead against an obviously worse team in addition to not scoring for the first 200 minutes of the season, there’s a point where maybe it no longer falls on the players. Reid himself has even said the team “traditionally doesn’t start well, and that’s on me.”
Much like the university came to an agreement that it was time to let Morrone go, they must consider doing the same with Reid. There’s no discounting just how legendary Reid is, but even the greatest coaches suffer from burnout toward the end of their careers. UConn keeps getting great recruits and probably will continue to do so if for no other reason than sheer name recognition. If Reid doesn’t lead this team to a conference title, then maybe it’s time for the university to find a new coach, because without a conference title, they will most likely miss the NCAA tournament for the second straight year and the third time in five years. The university has handled this situation right before, and if they intend to keep men’s soccer as one of their premiere sports, they’ll do the right thing and think about letting Reid go.
Stephanie Sheehan is the managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @steph_sheehan.